At Rotary Club of San Marino’s Salute to Service Academy Appointees luncheon last week, Congresswoman Judy Chu assured her appointees that they will continue to reflect the San Gabriel Valley’s track record of military academy students.
Although congressional representatives are minimally allotted one appointment per academy, Chu touted her nine total appointees this year as the norm for her district. Those appointees joined those made by Congresswoman Grace Napolitano and Congressman Adam Schiff at last week’s event, the club’s 15th such luncheon, which coincidentally shared the 75th anniversary of the Allied invasion of the beaches of Normandy, France, which began to turn the tide in World War II.
“Over the years, this Rotary Club has done so much,” Chu said, identifying the San Marino club as “her favorite” of them all. “It’s so important for all of us to be a village to support all these young people as they pursue their dreams.”
Patrick McDonald, a San Marino High School graduate who played varsity tennis and was in the school’s jazz band, said the U.S. Naval Academy’s specialized programming influenced him to pursue his appointment there.
“It has a STEM-heavy program and that’s what I’m interested in,” McDonald told Rotarians last week. “I think I can use my skills in the STEM area toward serving the greater good.”
Andrew Liu, an SMHS graduate appointed to the Air Force Academy, was absent last week because of a delayed flight, the club said.
Among the speakers last week was Jon “Chip” Crowley, a 2015 SMHS graduate who was then appointed by Chu for the U.S. Coast Guard Academy; he offered advice and guidance based on his time at the academy, from which he just graduated, and said it’s normal to feel nervous about the looming commitment.
“I just want you to know that it’s totally OK to feel like that, and I’m sure 90% of your classmates feel like that,” he said. “If you can just hit the ground running and stick your feet in the mud, you’ll be fine.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Crowley added. “This is something I’m sure you’ll all struggle with, too. The academy is designed to teach you how to cope with failure. This is something that everyone experiences there.”
Another way of coping with the mental rigors of the service academies, Crowley said, was to join a sport or a club.
“By joining a sport, you’ll get a couple hours of reprieve where you can just be like a normal college kid,” he said. “That couple of hours will do wonders for your mental health, and you’ll make a couple of friends along the way, too.”
Keynote speaker Austin Kim, a Baltimore native who attended West Point and includes deployment to Mosul, Iraq, in his military career, told the appointees that they should keep in mind the accomplishment of their appointments to stay focused while at the academies, reminding them of the 10% acceptance rate at each school.
“I think overall, I really didn’t know what I was signing up for, but I knew it was something different,” he said. “You guys have been chosen for a reason and really are the best our country has to offer.”